By Rachael Funk
Is a vacation really a vacation without some self-pampering? There’s no better way to ease into another country by indulging in a sumptuous spa getaway. From France to Turkey, here are 9 of the world’s best European spa towns.
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Located on the cusp of the Black Forest, the historic spa town of Baden-Baden offers its guests a wide range of excellent restaurants, luxury hotels, museums, a concert hall, and even free WiFi in certain pedestrian areas. The town has hosted a number of notable visitors such as Queen Victoria and Barack Obama. Baden-Baden’s thermal spas include the Friedrichsbad Roman-Irish Baths, which offers a multi-step spa experience, and Caracalla Spa, which offers 12 different hot springs.
A spa town with a history going back 2,000 years, Bath is home to Britain’s only thermal springs. Bath has carried a legacy of pleasure and relaxation since the Celts and Romans made it a wildly popular wellness destination. Today, you can tour the city’s magnificent architecture, peruse the manifold attractions, and soak away your stress in the mineral-rich waters.
A three-hour trip from Paris, Vichy is beloved for its beneficial mineral springs. Nicknamed the “queen of spa towns,” Vichy calls to wellness travelers from all over the globe. Napoleon III bathed here in the 19th century, skyrocketing the destination to notoriety. Aside from the various thermal cures offered by the mineral-rich springs, the town also has a compelling mix of Art Deco, Neo-Moorish, and Art Nouveau architectural styles to take in while you’re not occupied at the spa.
Heviz is easily the best-known of Hungary’s spa towns. Located about two hours from Budapest (a city which also boasts excellent spas), Heviz’s main attraction is its lake. One of the world’s largest biologically active thermal lakes, Lake Heviz is lauded for the healing properties of its water and properties in the surrounding mud.
This spa town in Belgium is a wonderland of tranquility and rejuvenation. Spa gained attention as Belgium’s wellness destination of choice after a visit from Tsar Peter the Great in 1717. Now, the area is known for its picturesque walking trails, thrilling views, glass-domed pools, and one of the world’s first casinos. The thermal springs in this town are said to be imbued with healing powers and was the inspiration to name the town “Spa,” which is an acronym for “Sanitas Per Aquas,” which, when translated from Latin means “health through water.”
The Turks have been credited as the inventors of the modern-day spa. Istanbul offers thermal baths influenced by Turkish hammams, which can be found all over the city. A full treatment entails a visits to a warm room, then a hot room, followed by a cold shower. Then, after a massage and whatever treatment you desire, you’ll get to enjoy a rest in a cooling room. The process takes several hours, but is a great way to refresh before or after travel.
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
The thermal springs in Karlovy Vary were discovered by Charles IV in the 14th century and have been visited by kings, queens, noblemen, and other distinguished figures. This resplendent retreat is home to 79 mineral springs, Europe’s largest spa complex, and numerous other wellness facilities. The area is surrounded by forest parks and hiking trails as well, which may appeal to lovers of the outdoors.
For a highly indulgent spa experience, head for Leukerbad. This small alpine town provides staggering mountain scenery, skiing, high-end gastronomy, and gorgeous locations for a steamy soak. Many thermal baths in this area are owned by private hotels and require patronage to enjoy, however there are thermal spas available to the public which are affordable and equally luxurious.
Montecatini Terme, Italy
Once owned by the royal family, the elegant Tuscan town of Montecatini Terme not only offers top-rated spas, but thermal mud baths and a range of balneotherapy and hydroponic treatments. It’s most popular spa complex is fed by an underground hydro mineral basin. After a visit to this area also warrants a leisurely stroll through town to see the fresco-covered halls, galleries, and tranquil gardens overflowing with rare plants.